On Jan. 11, 2020 after meditation, we learned about the importance and the challenges of Listening from Dharma teachers Ajahn Brahm and Toni Packer.
During our “Teachers’ Corner” session, we shared a series of clips from a Dharma talk “Total Listening”, and excerpts from an article “Finding a New Way to Listen”. The full video of the talk and the article are listed below. Also check out our suggestions on another Dharma talk about Listening, and the Homework that may help us get started in the practice to become better listeners!
In this Dharma Talk, Ajahn Brahm discussed a wide range of ideas about Listening, including: the importance of listening, how to practice listening during meditation, understanding the challenges people face when trying to express themselves, and our habitual tendencies to “bends the truth” — a hindrances to our ability to listen. He also advised us on becoming an “open listener” with no filters, and to “listening to life”. Towards the end of his talk, he reminded us that “listening to the words” is not the same as “listening“.
During our session we watched the following clips: 00:57-11:42, 15:21-19:21, 31:33-45:55.
“Total Listening” by Ajahn Brahm**
** Phra Visuddhisamvarathera AM, known as Ajahn Brahmavaṃso, or simply Ajahn Brahm (7 August 1951 ~), is a British-Australian Theravada Buddhist monk. Before becoming a monk, he studied theoretical physics at Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge in the late 1960s and taught in high school for one year before traveling to Thailand and train with the Ajahn Chah Bodhinyana Mahathera. Ajahn Brahm was ordained in Bangkok at the age of twenty-three by Somdet Kiaw, the late Abbot of Wat Saket. He subsequently spent nine years studying and training in the forest meditation tradition under Ajahn Chah. Currently Ajahn Brahm is the Abbot of Bodhinyana Monastery, in Serpentine, Western Australia. He is also the founding father of an emergent Australian forest tradition of Buddhist monasticism focused on being true to the original roots of the Buddha’s Teaching of Dhamma and Vinaya.
The article shared below contains a collection of transcripts for 3 Dharma Talks by Toni Packer. Although at first glance, only the first talk “Finding a New Way to Listen” seems to be about Listening, we do recommend reading the entire collection because they are all about being truly presence and paying attention — which is the essence of listening and being a good listener.
During our session, we only have time to read through the second page of the PDF together. We hope you will enjoy reading the rest.
*** Toni Packer (April, 1927 – August 23, 2013) was a teacher of “meditative inquiry”, and the founder of Springwater Center.Packer was a former student in the Sanbo Kyodan lineage of Zen Buddhism, and was previously in line to be the successor of Phillip Kapleau at the Rochester Zen Center.
If you would like to hear directly from Toni Packer, here is one of her recorded Dharma Talk on Listening:
(TECH. NOTE: The recording has a problem with echo at the beginning. The sound become normal again at ~01:40)
Try following Ms. Packer’s advice in “Finding a New Way to Listen” and start asking questions:
Where is my listening coming from this moment…?
Is it hampered by different ideas and attitudes or does it arise from a moment of being truly present?
More specifically, let’s all ask ourselves:
How can I possibly hear you when I am dying to say something myself? How can I take the time and care to understand you when I think that I am right and you are wrong? When I’m sure that I know better?
Can I hear you when I have fixed images about how you have been in the past, how you have criticized or flattered me? Can I listen freely when I would like you to be different from the way you are? Do I have the patience to listen to you when I think I already know what you are going to say? Am I open to listening to you when I am judging you?
Can I hear what you are saying when I am convinced that you are stupid? Am I listening to you in the same way that I listen to someone else?